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Devastator

Phantom Planet

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Phantom Planet's first album in over a decade, 2020's Tony Berg-produced Devastator, is a buoyant yet lyrically acidic production that finds them balancing the effusive '70s-style AM and power pop of their early work with their more angular post-punk leanings. It's a sound that harks back to their 2002 breakthrough hit, "California." An infectious paean to West Coast manifest destiny that gained wider buzz as the theme song to the teen drama The O.C., the song's mantra of "California here we come, right back where we started from," feels particularly prescient in regards to Devastator, an album that works as both a return to the band's roots and a fresh start. From the record title to the overall tone of raw emotionality, one could easily describe Devastator as a "breakup" album. In fact, while the group did not technically call it quits, they did go on an extended hiatus in 2008 following the release of Raise the Dead. During this period, singer Alex Greenwald recorded a solo album and collaborated on projects with Mark Ronson, Jenny Lewis, and others. He also became engaged to and ultimately split from actress Brie Larson -- a fact that feels intrinsically connected to Devastator, but which is never explicitly detailed. What we do get is a nuanced and harmonically textured album that evokes the wry and biting '70s work of artists like Harry Nilsson, Jeff Lynne, and Todd Rundgren -- Baroque pop melodicists drunk on heartbreak and dreams. On the dusky "Leave a Little Light On," Greenwald colors a vignette about loneliness with warm Beach Boys-esque harmonies and clever chamber-pop architecture. Conversely, on "Only One," he sets a desolate and heartsick night drive to a laid-back, reggae-inflected groove and twangy guitar accents. Elsewhere, we get the sad-eyed acoustic ballad "Dear Dead End," the orchestral tearjerker "Gold Body Spray," and the minor-key Kurt Weill-meets-ABBA number "Waiting for the Lights to Change." That said, there are even darker shades to Devastator, as on "Balisong," a menacing, slow-burn glitter-rock track in which Greenwald's butterfly knife is perhaps both a metaphor for self-protection and a cutting symbol of romantic betrayal. More sanguine is "Time Moves On," a heart-wrenching mid-tempo anthem built around a shimmering low-end guitar riff and '80s keyboard flourish against which Greenwald poignantly celebrates the end of a relationship. He sings "When we first met, we'd already been severed. Love's quick with goodbyes, but with us forever." With Devastator, Phantom Planet have crafted an album that deftly undercuts their hooky West Coast optimism with a bitterly cloudy beach bum sadness. You can almost hear the bright pop sound of their youth echoed back through the hazy din of waves returning to shore; California here we come, right back where we started from indeed.
© Matt Collar /TiVo

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Devastator

Phantom Planet

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1
BALISONG
00:03:39

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alex Greenwald, Guitar, Vocals - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Guitar - Sam Farrar, Bass - Shawn Everett, Mixer - Jeff Conrad, Drums - Patricia Sullivan, Masterer - Joseph Lorge, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2019 Phantom Planet

2
Party Animal
00:03:26

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alexander Greenwald, Composer - Alex Greenwald, Guitar, Vocals - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Guitar - Sam Farrar, Bass - Jeff Conrad, Drums - Patricia Sullivan, Masterer - Joseph Lorge, Mixer, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2019 Phantom Planet

3
Only One
00:04:09

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alex Greenwald, Guitar, Vocals - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Guitar - Sam Farrar, Bass - Jeff Conrad, Drums - Patricia Sullivan, Masterer - Joseph Lorge, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2020 Phantom Planet

4
Leave A Little Light On
00:04:02

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alex Greenwald, Guitar, Vocals - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Guitar - Sam Farrar, Bass - Jeff Conrad, Drums - Patricia Sullivan, Masterer - Joseph Lorge, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2020 Phantom Planet

5
Time Moves On
00:04:29

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alexander Greenwald, Writer - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Writer - Sam Farrar, Writer - Jeff Conrad, Writer - Patricia Sullivan, Mastering Engineer - Joseph Lorge, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2020 Phantom Planet

6
Through The Trees
00:04:07

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alex Greenwald, Guitar, Vocals - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Guitar - Sam Farrar, Bass - Jeff Conrad, Drums - Patricia Sullivan, Masterer - Joseph Lorge, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2020 Phantom Planet

7
Torture Me
00:03:57

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alex Greenwald, Guitar, Vocals - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Guitar - Sam Farrar, Bass - Jeff Conrad, Drums - Patricia Sullivan, Masterer - Joseph Lorge, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2020 Phantom Planet

8
Dear Dead End
00:03:22

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alex Greenwald, Guitar, Vocals - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Guitar - Sam Farrar, Bass - Jeff Conrad, Drums - Patricia Sullivan, Masterer - Joseph Lorge, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2020 Phantom Planet

9
Waiting For The Lights To Change
00:04:41

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alex Greenwald, Guitar, Vocals - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Guitar - Sam Farrar, Bass - Jeff Conrad, Drums - Patricia Sullivan, Masterer - Joseph Lorge, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2020 Phantom Planet

10
Gold Body Spray
00:02:48

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alex Greenwald, Guitar, Vocals - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Guitar - Sam Farrar, Bass - Jeff Conrad, Drums - Patricia Sullivan, Masterer - Joseph Lorge, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2020 Phantom Planet

11
ROTK
00:03:59

Phantom Planet, MainArtist - Alex Greenwald, Guitar, Vocals - Tony Berg, Producer - Darren Robinson, Guitar - Sam Farrar, Bass - Jeff Conrad, Drums - Patricia Sullivan, Masterer - Joseph Lorge, Engineer - Will Maclellan, Mixer, Engineer

© 2020 Phantom Planet ℗ 2020 Phantom Planet

Album Description

Phantom Planet's first album in over a decade, 2020's Tony Berg-produced Devastator, is a buoyant yet lyrically acidic production that finds them balancing the effusive '70s-style AM and power pop of their early work with their more angular post-punk leanings. It's a sound that harks back to their 2002 breakthrough hit, "California." An infectious paean to West Coast manifest destiny that gained wider buzz as the theme song to the teen drama The O.C., the song's mantra of "California here we come, right back where we started from," feels particularly prescient in regards to Devastator, an album that works as both a return to the band's roots and a fresh start. From the record title to the overall tone of raw emotionality, one could easily describe Devastator as a "breakup" album. In fact, while the group did not technically call it quits, they did go on an extended hiatus in 2008 following the release of Raise the Dead. During this period, singer Alex Greenwald recorded a solo album and collaborated on projects with Mark Ronson, Jenny Lewis, and others. He also became engaged to and ultimately split from actress Brie Larson -- a fact that feels intrinsically connected to Devastator, but which is never explicitly detailed. What we do get is a nuanced and harmonically textured album that evokes the wry and biting '70s work of artists like Harry Nilsson, Jeff Lynne, and Todd Rundgren -- Baroque pop melodicists drunk on heartbreak and dreams. On the dusky "Leave a Little Light On," Greenwald colors a vignette about loneliness with warm Beach Boys-esque harmonies and clever chamber-pop architecture. Conversely, on "Only One," he sets a desolate and heartsick night drive to a laid-back, reggae-inflected groove and twangy guitar accents. Elsewhere, we get the sad-eyed acoustic ballad "Dear Dead End," the orchestral tearjerker "Gold Body Spray," and the minor-key Kurt Weill-meets-ABBA number "Waiting for the Lights to Change." That said, there are even darker shades to Devastator, as on "Balisong," a menacing, slow-burn glitter-rock track in which Greenwald's butterfly knife is perhaps both a metaphor for self-protection and a cutting symbol of romantic betrayal. More sanguine is "Time Moves On," a heart-wrenching mid-tempo anthem built around a shimmering low-end guitar riff and '80s keyboard flourish against which Greenwald poignantly celebrates the end of a relationship. He sings "When we first met, we'd already been severed. Love's quick with goodbyes, but with us forever." With Devastator, Phantom Planet have crafted an album that deftly undercuts their hooky West Coast optimism with a bitterly cloudy beach bum sadness. You can almost hear the bright pop sound of their youth echoed back through the hazy din of waves returning to shore; California here we come, right back where we started from indeed.
© Matt Collar /TiVo

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